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Reckoning

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The day you get the call- the call that she’s been found, that she’s alive and real and whole- you’re lying on your bed thousands of miles from your native land, your mind still churning despite your fitful rest as you’re surrounded by the crime scene photos, the forensic pathologist’s notes, and the various witness statements from the night it had all happened. You woke to the loud blaring of your phone amidst the mess and you’d received news that had brought you to your knees. The news that had changed everything and had sent your already fragile heart plummeting and crashing on the century old oak of your hardwood floor.

Six months ago, in the middle of the fucking day, a man had held Gail and Oliver at gun point off of Dupont Street in downtown Toronto. He had cold coked Oliver with the gun and had rendered the veteran officer unconscious.

The man had come at them from behind during a routine stop. One of them holding them hostage, a gun at Oliver’s back so Gail complied and then- the crunching of footsteps and another masculine voice. Two of them, Oliver thinks. There were two men. But he couldn’t be sure. And the only other witness, well- the only other witness, when Oliver had finally come to and found the presence of mind to reach and call into his radio, was gone. Her gun tossed on the seat, a small smear of blood (her blood, your stomach churns) on the open passenger door. And then- that was it.

A thorough investigation by the FBI and what seemed like the whole Canadian police force was immediately mobilized and all avenues explored.
When you’d gotten the phone call, your brow furrowing from the unfamiliar number with the familiar area code, she had been gone for two days.
Your fury at Traci’s delayed, tearful phone call had been overwhelming and only overtaken by your horror and fear.

The redeye had been torture, the journey from the airport cab to the station even more so. Your head boomed with the words- kidnapped, missing, crime scene, we don’t know, Holly- as you rushed to meet Chris and Traci and Dov and fucking Chloe’s red rimmed and bloodshot eyes.

You could barely look at Oliver. Not because you blamed the man- quite the opposite, your first urge to run and greet him and tell him as much- but because when you did glance at him and his grim, gaunt face, you felt his guilt cloud over you. And it only added to your own, settling heavy over your shoulders.

You’d found him the next day and gripped him to you with trembling hands and heartfelt apologies and he’d held you back, his own heartfelt repentance falling from his lips. When he pulled back, stepping away but keeping his hands gripped on your shoulders, he’d looked you dead in the eye and told you that he knew that she was alive. She was alive and fighting and you, he’d urged, his fingers urging deeper into your shoulders, you are the love of her life and she was going to come back to you because she fucking loved you. He saw it in her, heard it in her voice every day and lived with the sorrow your absence had etched into the lines on her face. He’d urged you to believe. And so you tried, you really really fucking tried.

You held onto those words, the fire in them, the resolve in his eyes, as you examined the crime scene, still guarded and taped, yourself, hoping beyond anything to find something that your replacement had missed in his examination.

But you hadn’t. And the days and leads turned to nothing until you looked up and realized two weeks had passed and you hadn’t eaten in God knows how long and your job kept calling and you couldn’t do it. You couldn’t stay and suffocate in her absence, in the presence of the evidence that you would probably never see her again.

The grief and the guilt once you’d touched down back in San Francisco was crippling. The first night you found the closest bar and tried to drink until you forgot. As you were retching into the toilet, struggling to block out the desperate cries you imagine might be escaping her lips at that very moment at the hands of an unknown man, (after nearly a bottle of whiskey and a call from the bartender to a friendly cabby who had ensured your safety back into your small townhouse), you were sure you’d made the wrong decision.

The thought had determined your next action.

Traci talked to you in soothing tones and didn’t comment on your slurred speech. She told you what you needed to hear- that there was nothing more you could’ve done even if you had been there, and nothing more you can do, nothing more you can do but pray and hope and think- and then she told you that she would at least email everyday to keep you informed, that you should stay right where you were.

And she’d apologized for her delayed phone call to inform you of the situation in the first place as you’d started to bid your farewell. You’d told her didn’t matter because it didn’t. You’d told her if she really felt that bad, she’d double her efforts to bring Gail home.

You knew even as you pressed the end button that your words were really pointless. Because the edge to Traci’s voice, the slight shake underneath it told you all you needed to know.

She’d die to bring her back.

And maybe that’s why you’d been able to talk to Traci, lean on her throughout the disappearance. You had that in common with her, after all.

You’d gladly lay down your life for Gail Peck, too.

And so you’d drowned in it all and held tight to Oliver’s words and determination.

Six months is a long time when you’re waiting for someone. It’s a long time in general but the pain and uncertainty shroud you and make you dark and unable to breathe. You turn in on yourself. You sleep and work and research and talk to Traci. Rachel calls. You do not answer.

And then, when it feels like it’s all going to crush you, take you between its jaws and mash you with its dull and aching teeth, then the call in the middle of the night- the tremble of excitement in her tone as she speaks the words that you first thought were a cruel trick of your mind.

“Holly. Holly get up and get out here. I already booked you a flight-“

You’d sat up and your brain refused to process any of the words. Well, almost. Some were loud and clear.

“Holly,” she’s almost yelling, “Holly. We’ve got her. Gail’s back.”

And then it’s a blur because you don’t pack. You call another cab and confirm your flight on your phone and get through customs quietly and quickly and you don’t try to think.

You don’t try to think about any of it. You try to focus on the words and the hopeful feeling now ruminating in your stomach after so many months of never waning despair.

It’s quick this time. It’s anticipatory and hectic and the walk into the station isn’t so much a walk as a full out sprint and then you’re somehow finding and pulling Traci’s already rumpled jacket lapels into your greedy fists and trying not to grasp too hard but your heart is in your throat and tears are brimming in your eyes and you’re trying to convey that you need to see her and need to make sure all of this is real; but it’s Traci, someone who has grown to know you better than almost anyone else so she tries to relax her tired face and replace the fatigue and stress with a veneer of calm. She puts her hands over yours, relaxing your vice like grip on her jacket and bringing them down to your sides. She doesn’t remove them, simply looks into your eyes with a calm stare and squeezes your tensing hands with her own.

When she speaks, her voice offers no sense of the fatigue that still hangs heavy over her shoulders.

“She’s here, Holly. She’s here and she’s- she’s alright. A little dirty and little bruised up but she’s-“

And you’re nodding and biting your lip with a strong bite and the words tumble out of your mouth before you even register that you’re trying to speak.

“Did she say- did they, um- I… Traci… Please tell me they didn’t-“

The words end in a whimper and you would be embarrassed but she doesn’t flinch, only squeezes harder still at your hands. She shakes her head and when the words hit your ears and register in your brain, your knees buckle with relief.

“They were trying to re-program her. Survivalist nuts. One of them is a diagnosed sociopath and schizophrenic. They injected her with amphetamine cocktails, she thinks. Tried to make her into some fucking super solider.”

When your body jerks like it’s going to fall, Traci releases your hands and you feel a strong pair of arms snake underneath your own.

“Hey,” the deep timber of Chris’ voice echoes in your ear, “It’s ok, Holly. Come on. Let’s get you a chair and maybe some-“

“No!” The words shock you as much as they shock the two people in the room with you. You find your strength with a surge of adrenaline and step shaky legs toward your friend.

“No, I- I want to see her. Can I? Are you done taking her statement? Can she leave? Can I-?”

The words rush and you are only grounded by the strong hands this tie gritting into your shoulder. This time her lips offer a small smile.

“She’s expecting you.”

The two of them lead you to an interrogation room. The journey is short and silent and your heart feels like it’s going to burst out of your fucking chest and your breath is almost heaving out of your aching lungs but you push on and swallow hard when Traci knocks lightly at the grey door before pushing through after a moment of hesitation and a comforting pat on your back.

And then all the air goes out of the room because there she is- looking straight at you, blue eyes focused on your own, her shaggy, choppy hair skimming gracelessly over her brow, over her shoulders, sticking up haphazardly like it hasn’t been brushed or tamed in ages-and you’re still and your body is lead and fire and your mouth just drops open because there’s nothing you can really say or do because she’s here and so fucking thin even in her oversized police sweater with sleeves so long they pour over her hands; she’s thin and gaunt but she is without a single fucking doubt the most beautiful woman, person, thing, you’ve ever seen.

A charged moment as you stare at one another.

You don’t register the click of the door as Traci and Chris see their way out.

The silence deafens you.

You watch as she goes to speak but the word is lost because you’re moving, almost swooping and meeting her startled body with yours, wrapping your arms tight around her neck before she even has the chance to stand.

A moment as you feel her stiffen and panic- go to move away, afraid in your haze that you had overstepped, mindless of her trauma- but then her arms are tight around your middle and pulling you to her. Your knees are hard against the cement of the interrogation room but you don’t care because she’s sinking her face into the crook of your neck and sighing out a shaky sigh and you’re doing the same, squeezing your eyes shut and just inhaling as much of her scent as you possibly can.

You don’t know how much time passes before you’re pulling away and regarding her with fascination and awe, your hands coming up to cup her face, your thumbs tracing soft lines over her sharpened cheekbones. She sinks her hands in your hair and breathes out deeply once more, closing her eyes against the tears you can feel building and you take pity on her, surrendering to the bend of her neck and meeting her forehead with your own, closing your eyes and breathing in with her, slowly. In and out. No words, no need.

When you feel her shoulders go slack, the muscles draining of their tension, you pull away and meet her glassy, tired eyes with your own. You smile- crookedly, one of relief, really, more than joy- and watch as she tries to mirror it with your own.

She fails, her eyes drooping.

Another pause as you just peer at her, try to take in every new line, new shadow upon her beautiful face. Your eyes flicker to her lips, your thumb finding its way down to them. Your breath hitches as you feel her hot breath spilling out onto the skin there. You draw closer, mesmerized.
When you’re a hairbreadths away, you feel her stiffen. Her face slants to the side, her eyes all of a sudden blinking rapidly, the spell seemingly broken.

She clears her throat as you propel yourself away, once more terrified you’ve overstepped your bounds, made her uncomfortable, forgot what was most important in this terrible situation. You spring to your feet, the apologies falling from your lips as you find your way to the corner of the interrogation room, grounding yourself with a hand on either side of the wall.

And she’s getting up, too, her face drawn and so fucking sad and you can’t take it but she’s speaking and you’re trying to listen.

“No, I- Holly, I want to. I just- I don’t think I’m in the right- right place and I want to be, you know? I want you but I want to be-“

And she looks so helpless there and you can’t help but rush forward, your head shaking as you envelop her in your arms once more.

“Hey, no, sh,” you’re whispering as she buries her head in your chest, “This isn’t about me. Whatever you need right now, I’m here, ok? You’ve got me. I’m here.”

You feel her nod against your chest. You stand there, both of you, just breathing once more for long moments. It’s only when there’s a light knock on the door that you allow yourself to part from the embrace, still only breaking it to grasp tightly onto her hand.

Traci’s voice flows into the room.

She tells you that you are both free to go. She offers you her home.

You look at the woman beside you, her eyes downcast, and tighten the hold on her hand until she looks up at you.

“That’s really nice, Trac- but I still have my townhouse. I sort of already had it paid off and my apartment in San Francisco came with the job, so, I- if it’s alright I- “

A beat before Traci is looking to Gail, her eyebrows up in question.

But Gail is moving closer to you and settling her body into your side and nodding her head and before you know it Traci is arranging for a car to take you to your old townhouse. She leaves you both with a tight hug and a request from you for an update, her eyes on the woman beside you who seemed to be collapsing under the weight of her exhaustion.

Her eyes follow you out the door and into the hall.

Chris takes you both to your old home with a promise to play chauffer tomorrow. You’d quietly tucked her into your side and looked out the window, gripping her to you like a vice.

The ride is quiet.

She’d taken you by surprise when she’d crawled into the car, Gail forgoing the front seat and sliding onto the bench next to you until she was once more plastered to your side, her head tucked into the crook of your neck, your arm sliding around her shoulders.
So you move through the loud and busy Toronto streets, the feather light sounds of the radio joining the chorus of heavy breaths next to your ear, Chris’ concerned gaze catching yours every once in a while through the rear view mirror. You try to ignore it but finally settle with tucking your forehead onto the top of Gail’s scruffy head, inhaling and trying to focus on the fact that she was here- here, finally fucking whole and here and real in your arms and you were going home where you could watch and help and hopefully heal her.

And then you’re pulling up in front of your house- Chris putting it in park and pulling open your door before you could really even process what was going on. And then you were climbing out and she was right behind you, blinking tired and glassy eyes up at your surroundings and then- then shrinking back as Chris’ hand moves from your back to hers. She gives small gasp, stumbling, your hands fully grasping her tight and rigid shoulders and pulling her to your chest. She shakes and you try to soothe her, meeting Chris’ wide and tear filled eyes over her shoulder, shaking your head and trying to convey with your own stricken gaze that this wasn’t his fault, wasn’t anything to feel guilty about-

It’s all sort of a quick shuffle then- the three of you moving toward the door of the condo, Chris opening the door after pulling the keys out of your pocket per your instruction. The flick of a light, a quick look back toward Chris who stops at the edge of the kitchen tile as if held by a force you can’t see. You shoot him a look, one of sincere thanks but also of ‘appreciate it, but I’ve got it from here, man’- and it takes him a second but understanding finally dawns on his face, his soft but earnest “call me if you need anything” hitting your ears a moment before the close of the door you had just entered into and then- then it was finally just you and Gail and the quiet.

It’s heavy for a moment, the silence, before you break it.

“Are you- God, you must be starving. When’s the last time you had something to eat?”

She simply shakes her head, shrinking, and you open your mouth to speak but then hesitate, thinking back to what you had promised earlier.

Instead, you pause, and change tactics.

You ghost a light kiss over her temple, speak into the fly away hairs there.

“What do you need, honey? Just- you don’t have to talk if you don’t want to but what do you need?”

You feel her stiffen, curse the obviously misguided words. But then, her arms are tightening around you, her face tucking into your neck and, God, her lips moving against your neck, drawing a shiver from your tingling body.

You can barely hear her over the thundering, rushing, of your pulse but you do. You hear her, and what you hear sends your stomach plummeting and your eyes watering and your throat tightening.

“You,” she speaks, steadfast, “I need you.”

You move as a single unit, fumbling up the stairs, her heavy body slumping and losing energy with every step. You settle her into the clean sheets moments later, tucking the blankets on top of them around her slight frame. You don’t lay with her, gauging her drooping eyelids and slumping shoulders. She musters enough strength to crinkle her brow, turn her head, and peer at you as you settle down beside the bed, kneeling, your hand coming out to soothe at her forehead, trace the line that’s formed there, before drifting into her surprisingly soft, clean hair.

“Sleep. When you wake up, we’ll get something to eat and you can change- or, I know you showered at the station but if you want another one you can do that, too, and then we can just-“

She doesn’t say anything, still just peers. When the stare becomes unnerving, you voice your confusion.

“What is it? What’s wrong?”

She shakes her head, brings a hand toward your face, cupping your cheek. You melt, the tension from your shoulders subsiding for a moment as you lean into it. You swallow as she speaks.

“I’m sorry I’m falling asleep. It’s- it’s good to see you, Holly. I- I spent that whole time- when they- when they were doing all that shit to me-“

You close your eyes against the onslaught of images that try to invade your mind and devastate you. But you force yourself to open them when you realize she has more to say.

“I spent that whole time- thinking about this. What I would do if I ever got lucky enough to see you again. You were-“

Your eyes sting with tears. Your throat feels like it did the time you found out you were allergic to Penicillin. You swallow it all down as she chokes softly on her own words.

“You were the only thing- that got me through. The way I- and what I would do when I saw you got me through. All I could think about. You’re all I think about.”

A tear slips out in earnest and splashes the edge of her hand. You open your mouth to speak but stop once her eyes drift close, her body surrendering to sleep, her hand guided down onto the bed with your own.

You stare at her for a long moment, trace the bone of her cheek with a reverent thumb and blink the tears back, some escaping despite your ambition. When you speak to her, it’s soft.

“Sleep. I’ll be here when you wake up.”

You sigh, drawing your hand back when the sound of her steady breath reaches your ears. Wincing, you finally feel the strain in your knees from your crouched and awkward position, looking around the room for a chair. You sigh when you don’t find one.

You stand, trying to be as quiet as possible, padding out of the room to grab the desk chair from the study. When you reach the frame of the door, you hear a slight rustle, a small voice rise from the bed.

“Hol?”

Her voice is clouded with sleep. You wheel and stride quickly to the bed.

“Sorry, honey. I’ll be right back- I just- I don’t have anywhere to sit and I-“

“S’okay.”

You smile a small smile at her slurred words. You’re almost out of the room when she speaks your name again.

“Holly?”

“Yeah, Gail?”

A slight pause. A heavy sigh and more shifting sheets. You assume she’s drifted off again when she says, so clearly:

“Thanks for saving me.”

Your feet stumble. Your breath catches in your closing throat. You buckle in the hallway, bracing yourself on the banister overlooking the living room.

You swallow lungfuls of air in between your hitched and heavy sobs.

You don’t know what is more palpable- the grief of her experience or the relief of her return.

When you settle, you grab the chair, put it beside the bed, and wait.

-

Four hours and three old journals later, she’s still fast asleep and you’re in dire need of the bathroom. You know it’s silly but you don’t want to leave her. With a sigh and a look at your watch, you get up and shuffle to the bathroom. When you’re washing your hands, you catch a look at yourself in the mirror. You look tired, you grimace. With a slight look at your watch, you grab a wash cloth from the closet and a bar of Old Irish.

The water feels good on your tepid neck, your inflamed cheeks, and you pat your now clean face with the other towel you had hanging on the rack beside the sink. It makes you feel better, almost refreshed.

You round the corner into the bedroom, stopping at the bookshelf just inside the door, your head aching at the mere thought of reading another word from old issues of Pathology Today. It’s only then that you notice the lack of steady breaths in the air. You wheel around.

Gail is gone, the sheets twisted but still warm.

Panic seizes your throat and you’re saying her name as loud as your trembling vocal chords will allow, moving out of the bedroom and down the stairs.

When you rush down them and clear the corner of the banister, your heart feels like it stops. Maybe it does.

Gail is sitting on one of the stools at the breakfast bar, slight frame engulfed only in the too long, too big TPD sweatshirt. She turns when you breathe her name.

“You weren’t- I didn’t know where you were. So, I.”

She stares at you, eyes wide. You carry yourself to her.

“Hey, no. I’m sorry. I was in the bathroom, I- I’m sorry I wasn’t there.”

She shakes her head.

“No, it’s okay. I- I just- I’m not tired anymore. And I thought you were here and I- I just wanted to see you. I said some stuff earlier-“

You’re shaking your head now, trying to brush off her words.

“Hey, no- you don’t have to explain yourself, Gail. I meant it. Whatever you need-“

But she interrupts you.

“I meant it. What I said. I- I meant it.”

That shuts your mouth. It’s your turn to stare as your mind goes blank.

“I- you were what got me through. I just kept thinking about how we left things and how stupid it all seemed when I was- you know. And I told myself that I would- that I would do everything I could to do it right this time. Everything I could to get you back here with me. And- I am sorry. That I fell asleep. Because- Holly-“

You swallow at your name. Her voice changes, her eyes flick down your body as if she’s suddenly all too aware of it. Like she just remembered that it existed.

“All I have thought about is what I would say to you when I saw you again.”

A heavy silence. A long beat.

“What I would do to you.”

The air completely changes- once concern-laden, all panicking jutters of your heart and shaking, worried hands- it shifts. And you’re still concerned, yeah, but your body is suddenly shaking and tingling for another reason altogether in the thick, lust soaked air. You don’t know how it all changed so quickly, but God, you want her-

A sound- a whimper- leaks out of your lips, unbidden, when her impossibly steady hands close the gap and pull at your hips. You brace your hands on her chest, the words of refusal heavy on your tongue, when she speaks once more.

“I’m okay. I’m here and I’m okay and you asked me what I need? Holly, you asked me what I need. And it’s you. Just- goddammit, Holly. This is all I need.”

It feels like all of the air expels from your lungs. You let her pull you forward, put her forehead on yours, heave a shuddered sigh millimeters from your lips. When she doesn’t move, doesn’t try to close the gap, you try to on your own, your hands coming up to cup her cheeks, mouth opening and breath gasping out. It turns into a groan when she stops you, her hands shifting- one to scratch at your back, one to thread her fingers tightly through, and then pull on, your hair. She locks her eyes with yours, looks into them for a hard, long moment. The only sounds you hear are your own heavy and labored breath rasping into her mouth, the pounding of your heart as it thuds hard enough to echo up into your mouth, down into your toes.

Your mouth opens in a gasp when her tongue flicks out to trace at your bottom lip, hands tightening in your hair to control the impulse to move forward on instinct as want crashes down upon you, floods you. Another tense beat, only heavy breaths passed between you as she suddenly stands, never breaking eye contact even as your own hands come out to brace against her shoulders, gripping into the taut flesh there. The moment is charged and still but so fucking heavy as you gauge one another, her tongue now regrettably back in her own mouth as she peers into you. Another tick of the clock in the kitchen, another ragged breath and then-

“Gail- please,” the words breaking out into the open air and shocking you with their desperation.

And when she whimpers and covers your needy mouth with hers, it’s not like an explosion, no. It’s an implosion- the floor dropping out from underneath you, sucking you in through her lips, decimating you with its strength and pull.

The needy gasp tears out of your mouth as she takes complete and total control- her tongue lashing into your mouth without preamble and wrapping around your own, sucking it in and refusing to let it go. She retreats only to breathe raggedly and push at your hips, before going back again, plundering your mouth endlessly with hard and desperate kisses, her body rushing into yours, moving you backward mindlessly. It’s only when you realize that you’re against the side of your couch do you break the kiss, threading your hand through blonde hair and pulling.
You bite your lip to quell a moan when you take her face in- her glassy, aroused eyes, blushing cheeks and kiss swollen lips- but focus on the task at hand. You wanted her- God, you fucking wanted her to devour you- but you can’t get the thought of touching her bare flesh- of gripping her smooth hips and scraping the soft skin of her thighs with your nails and teeth- out of your mind so you use her daze to spin her around, watching her ass meet the arm of the couch and then her body bend back with the weight of you. You blanket her body with yours, watch her scoot up and follow with every inch until you’re shoulder to shoulder and toe to toe and Jesus Chris breast to breast, and you bring your arms out to brace yourself against the couch cushions, your legs tangling with hers, your hand slipping in-between your bodies and pressing into her clothed center, and delighting in the guttural moan that slips out of her lips. You smirk and cover her lips with yours once more, slipping your tongue in and stroking over hers in time with the pressing of your hand, the rolling of your hips. She’s panting and making these fucking gorgeous low whimpers in her throat with the time of them, her own hips picking up the rhythm after a few steady, heady moments. And she’s breaking your kiss to strangle out a breathy “yes” and opening up her eyes just in time for you to open your own and God- the depth, the color, the clarity of them- it reaches deep down inside of you and brings words up and out of your rasping throat.

“Was this- God!”

She’s grinding into your palm, latching her lips on your pulse point.

“Was this- what you thought of?”

And the words- sex soaked and searching must switch a flip in her because she’s going rigid and you’re back peddling even as a sort of growl leaves her throat and your body is suddenly up and your legs are scrabbling for purchase on the wood of your floor but it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter because she’s up and grabbing you up as with her, your left leg snaking its way around her hip as she roughly lifts you into her, sealing her lips against yours, hard, your teeth scraping her bottom lip accidentally. You go to soothe it but instead grip at her shoulders when you feel the equilibrium shift, feel yourself being spun and then moved backward until-

Your ass meets a hard surface and you gasp, disconnecting your lips when you hear the first shattering of glass against the hardwood. Not because you cared about the plate that was just knocked into the floor but because she’s nipping your ear and whispering into it, her hand coming out to drift underneath your shirt, tugging at the buttons running down the front of it until the other joins it in her task, foregoing the more traditional route and simply tearing at the fabric until you hear a skitter of plastic against the hard surface, feel the light gust as your chest and stomach are bared to the air of the room.

“Do you want to know what I thought of when I was gone?”

You’re panting and nodding and she’s drifting one hand over a breast and the other into your hair, pulling at the dark tresses and licking the lobe of your ear into her mouth.

“What I thought of doing to you every night?”

Another gasp. Another nod. Another cry as she yanks your bra down, not bothering with the clasp, rolling an erect nipple with her warm fingers before palming it roughly.

And then she’s speaking and God- you were wet before- soaked through your underwear, you’d wager- but her words- dripping and delirious in their wanting- make the heat and the slick between your legs nearly unbearable.

“I thought of touching you. Of just- kissing you and pressing you up against a wall and-“

Her mouth drops down to your neck, scraping her teeth against the pulse of it.

Her hand moves from your breast, drifting down into the vee of your legs, into the heat of you, and presses. You cry out in relief at some friction, mumble out a light “yes” when her hand begins to move in a steady motion.

“-thought about ripping off your pants and your underwear and just-“

You feel rather than hear the button pop and zipper hiss as she unfastens your pants, the give of the fabric as it settles around your hips. The jeans go first, pooling down your ankles with shifting hips and your underwear- but God, they don’t matter because-

“-dropping to my knees and putting my tongue on your clit. Sinking my fingers into you. God, I wanted-“

-because her other hand is gripping hard and tugging at your hair and the other is moving the ruined scrap of your simple black cotton underwear aside and slipping two fingers firmly inside of you and biting down roughly on your neck, tongue coming out to soothe at the wound at your shouted affirmation with the sudden intrusion.

“Jesus Christ!”

And she’s groaning out her own delight at the feel of you- hot and wet and fucking desperate against her hand and fingers- and speaking still.

“-God, I wanted to fuck you, Holly. With my tongue and my mouth and my hands. I didn’t care- I just-“

She begins to thrust. It isn’t soft or careful- the pace she sets is bruising, her fingers curling on every thrust and rendering the words you’re trying to spill a useless and garbled mess.

“I just wanted to be inside you. Fuck, Holly- you feel-“

And then she’s burying her head into the crook of your neck and her voice gets a little warbled with what you think is emotion and you open your mouth, shift to see if she’s alright- but then it’s like she just surrenders into it, sinks and sags and sighs into you and begins to fuck you mercilessly, your eyes closing at the intensity, your legs widening to welcome her further and further in.

Your hands drift to her ass, grip her to you, your fingers clench with every in and out of her fingers. And then her thumb is slip sliding and brushing your clit with every pass and she’s snaking her tongue up the slope of your neck and capturing your earlobe once more, her heavy and staccato breathing against you only adding to the onslaught of sensation currently wracking your body.
And then you’re building up and up and up and crying out into the air and gripping her to you, your nails biting into the hard sinew of her neck leaving moon shaped imprints there.

“God- God, Gail. I’m so- I’m so close. Please. Please let me come. Please.”

And she’s groaning and telling you to come and somehow strengthening her thrusts and then- then you’re coming- waves crashing and you, surrendering to their splendor. And you think you’re coming down but honestly you can’t be sure because she’s still moving her hand at a steady pace and fucking you through it but she’s also whispering something you can’t quite make out between the pleasure and the sudden ocean it creates in your ears so it’s with confusion that you watch and feel as she moves away from your body.

But it doesn’t last for long, her hand swiftly withdrawing from where her fingers are buried inside of you, her other hand removing your ruined underwear from your legs, and quickly resuming her previous actions, being rewarded with a heady cry from your lips, a gasp with every rough motion of her fingers inside of you. And then- then- she’s dropping to her knees and not even waiting a moment before she’s skirting her tongue out and over you and into you and latching her lips onto your clit and flicking her tongue in tandem with her still twisting fingers and holy shit- holy shit- holy shit-

You push her away after the third orgasm- your tongue sticking to the roof of your mouth, your legs numb and chest heavy. You blink up into the ceiling once your head clears enough to register sight and catch her face- cheeks high with blush, lips (Jesus fuck) wet and plump, eyes glistening and brow furrowed. It still takes a moment to realize she’s talking, though.
“- you okay, Hol?”

You hum once you process the words, reach a heavy and lazy hand up to her neck, see the pink lines there from your gritting fingertips, and pull her down to you, sealing your lips over her and tasting yourself on your tongue. She sighs, allows a few moments of heavy tongues and heavier breath.

But then she is regrettably gone, mumbling something about you being awfully flushed and needing a glass of water. And it’s those words- those words and the realization that she was trying to go away that made you sit up and place your still wobbly legs on the floor and watch her as she rounded the table, avoiding the glass shattered on the floor, and walking by the couch. And you can’t stand it, you can’t.
So, you’re up on unsteady legs, tattered and button less shirt flapping with your steps and moving as fast as your wobbly legs will allow, catching up to her in record time and trapping her, arms coming out to brace against the cloth of the couch, her back flush against it. And suddenly you’re in her space and she’s gulping and closing your eyes because you’re reaching out to trace at her swollen lips with your thumb and muttering a deep, “where do you think you’re going?” in between her sputtered breaths and darkening, pupil blown eyes.
“I- you looked like you were… uh… thirsty?”

She doesn’t sound certain now but in all fairness, you’ve started a slow grind with your leg into her underwear clad center, the pajama pants tossed at some point during her slumber. You’re thankful for it, honestly, and can’t help yourself as you lay your body fully into hers and tracing the shell of her ear with your tongue. She groans, arms coming out to grip at your hips as you roll them into hers, bares her throat, and nearly screams when you bite down on the spot you know she likes to be bitten- the dip where her shoulder meets the slender line of her neck. And you can’t take it- you need to touch her and feel her so you find your hands ripping off the large sweatshirt with little preamble and tearing your lips away from her reddened neck to finally see and-

And what you see stops you dead in your tracks. Because her skin- her beautiful, porcelain skin is marred with bruises- some new and pink and fading into purple and some mottled green and fading. And you simply stare for a few moments, almost unable to comprehend what you’re seeing because- because you had been so lost in her and the lust and this renewal that you had almost forgotten- the reason for your reunion in the first place.

You watch as she shrinks from your gaze, her face once fire and want now full of uncertainty and regret and you finally move when she goes to grab at her discarded sweatshirt in an attempt to cover up.

You say her name, quietly, and catch her wrist as she goes to pick up the clothing, watching as she stops stock still. You gently guide her upright, touch your hands to her cheeks. Wipe the beginnings of a tear away from there. Words fail you for a moment, lodged in your throat, so you simply peer at her with all of the affection you can muster, and rub your thumb in slow circles along her cheekbones, the slant of her furrowed brow.
When the words do come, you breathe them out with a tremble you can’t quite conceal.

“I- you don’t have to hide from me. You are the most beautiful- I have never. I- I love you and you are so beautiful and I am so sorry for what those assholes did but I am so goddamn glad you came back to me.”

And it’s like all of the air is sucked out of the room and her lungs too because she sinks into your touch and nods and opens her mouth to speak but you instead capture her lips with yours, swallowing them, your mind focused now on the only thing you’ve been able to think about since you saw her- maybe a few hours ago, maybe years ago at a goddamn crime scene in the middle of the woods, and you’re undoing the clasp of her bra with one hand and grasping her hair with the other and kissing her with a fierceness you’re not sure you’ve ever possessed.

You’re palming her breasts and kissing down her throat and making your way to the first blemish on her perfect skin, tongue flicking out and soothing at the fading mark and relishing in the slight sigh of your name that leaks out of her lips. You repeat the action over every dark splotch, every red and raised smear until she’s a wriggling mess, her hips rutting against yours in a scramble for some sort of friction. Just when she thinks you’re going to take pity on her, you’re gripping her hips and turning her around, letting her brace her hands on the back of the couch as you bend her over slightly, giving every mark on her back equal treatment, blanketing her body from behind, hearing her sigh when you press your breasts against her back and rut lightly against her ass and bring your hands up to cup and knead her breasts once more. But you can’t take it anymore- the breathy gasps she’s giving and the way her body responds to your every movement spurring you on- and then you’re peeling her underwear down her body and asking an “is this okay?” as you’re reaching around to touch her clit and skate your fingers through her copious wetness.

You see her nod where her head is resting, face down on the back of the couch, hear the stuttered moan that leaves her lips with every stroke of your fingers against her clit. When she begins to cant her hips back and mutters a broken “Holly, please,” you can’t help but give in, flipping your hand and sinking two eager fingers inside of her, bending over to trace the slithering line of her spine with your tongue and the scraping of your teeth as you take her from behind, the sounds that you’re making- the slap of your hand against her thighs, the ragged inhales you both take, the half slurred curses- only aiding to the cant and press of your hips.

As glorious as this is- taking her from behind and muttering into her flexing, string tight muscles about how wet and hot and fucking good she feels- you want to really hear her and see her so you fasten your spare hand in her hair and, as gently as you can, bring her so she’s standing up with you, the hand in her hair drifting across her collarbone and your hand gripping onto her opposite shoulder so you are holding her to you as you continue to fuck her.

She bares her throat and nearly keens when you nip along it, lost is sensation, lost in the steady grind and twist and curl of your fingers. She wenches her head back for an open and needy and sloppy kiss, her breath hitching and her eyes fluttering open and shut as you continue to move with her, inside her, desperate to feel her clench around your fingers as she comes. And you’re kissing her and she’s looking at you with confused and clouded and consumed eyes and Jesus Christ she’s bucking against you and whining into your mouth-

“Jesus, Holly- I’m God, I’m so close-“

And before you can untangle your other arm from where it’s snaked around her collarbone, you hear her gasp and her hips continue with their steady motion, yeah, but God, oh God- is she-?

You break the kiss and have to keep your knees from buckling because she’s snaking a hand down between her legs and she’s rubbing at her own clit and stabbing her tongue into your mouth and panting in between the overwhelming shocks of pleasure and Jesus you are about to pass out just from the experience but then- then a muffled shout that reverberates in your mouth and a final, desperate jut of her hips and then- then she’s gripping your fingers and jerking her hips with the aftershocks.

You feel her slump, feel her go boneless and somehow work you both so you’re lying on the couch. She tumbles slack in your arms, spent and exhausted, her breath trying to even out with every passing moment.

You wait for her heart to slow, her eyes to open, kiss her forehead until they do.

And you know there is so much to do, to say- for fuck’s sake, you had just told this woman that you were in love with her for the first time- but you can’t bring yourself to pop the bubble you’ve both found yourselves in. Because she’s here and she’s alive and you never thought you’d see her again but here she is whole and a little broken but also- but also the most beautiful thing you had ever seen.

You trace your fingers over her soft face, fighting sleep, and smile. You smooth back her hair, try to remember to call your hairstylist tomorrow to maybe make a house call, and press a kiss upon it, take a deep breath in just to get a hint of her scent (God you’d missed it), and tell her to get some sleep. That you would be there tomorrow. You would be there as long as she wanted you, as long as she needed you. You would be there- for as long as time and fate allowed.

You count her breaths, shift on the couch and feel her shift on top of you in turn, settling fully into the crook of your neck. It isn’t until you feel her relax into you, seemingly asleep, that you allow your arms to tighten around her, feel your throat clench at the ‘what if’s’ and the ‘could have been’s’- feel your heart bottom out at the mere thought that you could have lost her and never felt her skin or kissed her lips again.

But the woman in question, almost, it seemed, able to read your thoughts simply kisses the place where her head lays, smooths a calloused hand along your back.

“I’m here and I’m whole and I’m okay and I love you, Holly. I’m okay. Ssh. We’re okay.”

And you’re nodding and heaving a shuddering but hopeful sigh, falling to sleep tracing your fingers down her spine and pressing your lips to the crown of her head.

For the first time in months, you don’t fear the day.